A Chapter That Should Be Expelled from Hillel

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It is an open secret that university Hillel chapters often find themselves on the side of campus constituencies that support the agenda of Israel’s most vicious enemies. One particularly appalling example of this alliance comes to us from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), whose Hillel chapter has formed an incestuous association with the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), a controversial student program that emulates the model of the terrorist front group, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), and indeed, even works with ISM leadership. In its most scandalous episode yet, the OTI has been exposed for arranging a meeting between students and a prominent leader of the genocidal terrorist organization Hamas. UCI Hillel’s on-going alliance with such an organization and its record of deceit demand that drastic measures be taken.

Controversy with UCI Hillel erupted in November 2010 when the organization’s president promoted a speaking event featuring a Palestinian activist named George Rishmawi. The event was arranged under the auspices of the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), but was promoted over Facebook by Hillel leadership. Importantly, the original Facebook flier described Rishmawi as the “cofounder [of] the International Solidarity Movement” (ISM) and the “head of [the] Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies.” This is crucial to note, as the significance of Rishmawi’s affiliation with the ISM cannot be overstated. The ISM is a viciously anti-Israel organization that endorses Palestinian terrorism and is infamous for its abetment of terrorist operations in Israel through its facade of “nonviolent” activism. The group specializes in propagandizing Westerners, whom it uses as human shields to provide cover for terrorists.

Needless to say, when the Orange County Jewish community was alerted to the event, many were outraged. The Orange County Independent Task Force on Anti-Semitism publicized the event on its website, but shortly thereafter, the event information, including biographical information on Rishmawi, had changed. Rishmawi was described as the “Coordinator for Siraj, Center For Holy Land Studies” and a “former member of the International Solidarity Movement” (emphasis added). Hillel UCI President Matan Lurey explained on the event’s page that there are, in fact, two George Rishmawis, and that there had been confusion about which one had been invited by OTI. Defenders of the talk claimed that it was George S. Rishmawi who was invited to speak, not George N. Rishmawi, a relative and colleague of the former, and notorious cofounder of the ISM.

Unfortunately, the controversy only escalated from there, much of which, is chronicled at www.ha-Emet.com (Hebrew for “the truth”), a community response to events exposed in November. Numerous members of the Jewish community, led by Dee Sterling, were disturbed by the Rishmawi talk and dispatched a letter to Jordan Fruchtman, executive director of Orange County Hillel (which oversees the UCI Hillel). The letter was also sent to Shalom Elcott of the Jewish Federation of Orange County (JFOC) and Jay Feldman, coordinator of the JFOC’s Rose Project, which funds the OTI. More broadly, the letter objected to Hillel and the federation’s support for the OTI, which was being increasingly exposed for the radically anti-Israel student indoctrination program that it is. The letter read, in part:

“It is particularly disturbing that the UCI Hillel, under the guidance of Hillel Director Jordan Fruchtman has also contributed to supporting the OTI. A former Hillel Israel Fellow participated in an OTI trip and the current student leader of Hillel is actively promoting the event this coming Monday with George Rishmawi….We also ask Jordan Fruchtman how Hillel which, ‘…provides opportunities for Jewish students to explore and celebrate their Jewish identity…’ can reconcile this noble work with the history and actions of the ISM.”

The response from the recipients of this letter, however, was truly disgraceful. With respect to Fruchtman in particular, rather than accept responsibility for the egregious lack of judgement, Fruchtman disseminated a letter to the Orange County Jewish community personally attacking Sterling, claiming that she was maliciously spreading untruths and was mistaken about which Rishmawi was speaking. “Hillel does not support George N. Rishmawi or ISM, the organization with which he is affiliated,” Fruchtman said. “As a matter of principle, the values of ISM are in direct conflict with Hillel’s values and Hillel’s stance on Israel…[T]he person that has been invited by the Olive Tree Initiative to speak at UCI on November 22, 2010, is a different George Rishmawi, whose full name is George S. Rishmawi[.]” Fruchtman advised others to ignore Sterling’s “reprehensible” statement.

Beyond the extreme lack of decorum in terms of the letter’s personal attack against an active, upstanding member of the Irvine Jewish community (for the crime of voicing her objections to a malicious anti-Israel activist being brought on campus), the letter sent by Fruchtman was seriously factually challenged. First, it is incontrovertible that an event featuring the “cofounder of the ISM” had been promoted by Hillel leadership. In fact, the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles issued a similar objection to the JFOC based on the same information. The alleged confusion was only “clarified” when public criticism was made of Hillel publicizing the event in the first place.

Secondly, George S. Rishmawi (the “good one”) also has a close relationship with the ISM. His biography at the Siraj Center also describes him as the “cofounder” of the ISM. Moreover, although Fruchtman in his letter claimed that George S. “was no longer involved” with the group, it is not as if organizations like the ISM offer membership cards or any other formal recognition of association. What it means to say that one has “cut ties” or dropped affiliation with the group is extremely ambiguous and practically impossible to verify.

But in fact, such verification is not even necessary. OTI itineraries from 2008-2010 identify two George Rishmawis giving talks and tours to students on OTI trips to Israel and the disputed territories (including Hillel members). These two individuals are clearly differentiated on the 2008, 2009, and 2010 itineraries as “George S. Rishmawi (Siraj Center)” and “George Rishmawi (cofounder ISM).” Clearly, both Rishmawis are involved in the program, unless, for some strange reason, George S. Rishmawi — the “good” ISM cofounder according to UCI Hillel — was identified two different ways on the same itinerary.

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  • bob maram

    of couse that odious chapter should beexpelled from hillel.toquote rabbi hillel ""if not now, when"" bobmaram

  • Larry

    I've often said "We Jews are our own worst enemies". A good example of Jews shooting themselves in the foot is J Street. 70 to 75% of Jews will still vote for Obama even though his Anti-Israel and pro Muslim sympathies are well known.

    • jacob

      I have discovered that American Jews are genetically DEMOCRAPS, that is,
      BORN Democraps, which explains why Jewish Republicans are as scarce
      as hen's teeth…

      I learned it from speaking to a very intelligent New York Jewish lady when I
      asked her then who was she going to vote for President and she answered
      me : OBAMA …! ! !

      I asked her then what did she know about this perfect "parachutist" for all
      intent and purpose and she answered me she didn't have to, as long as
      he was her party's choice…

      Then I asked her whether if her party would have chosen a monkey for
      President, would she vote for him and she answered me YES…! ! !
      Jews are famous for feeding and handing their enemy the knife with which
      he will slit their throats, thanks to their stupid and naive "liberalism"….
      Rest assured, in spite of all, at least 50% of them will vote OBAMA in 2012

      • Fred Dawes

        That will be the downfall of this country, I know some jews who are totally right wing but all are vet like world war two and are long dead, the sons of many love the BS Not all but alot, we must understand within 10 years this country will be in a race and civil war and it will be for our life's, it coming down on all of us and the system understands what is coming.

  • Questions

    The late Irving Kristol put it well: "Never understimate the political stupidity of the Jews."

  • sodizzy

    Would that Bill Kristol have inherited his father's intelligence.

  • Jim

    Not only Hillel but various other religions have influential sub groups which seem to be intensely trying to promote dangerous extremist movements. The movements seem to be intent on causing harm to the people in the religion.. The question is why the subgroups support such destructive movements. The leaders always seem to have a hyper moralistic system of reasoning. However their moralistic reasons probably are not the real reasons. The moralistic reasons seem to be nothing more than talking points which are designed to rationalize rather than to explain.

  • Alfonz Shmedlap

    M., 04/11/11 common era

    The UC Irvine Hillel chapter's attitude illustrates the logical consequence of moral relativism. 2 peoples in 2 states sounds reasonable, the "2-State Solution." However,
    the Palestinian Arab Gentiles really are seeking all of mythical "Palestine" by a "strategy of stages," 1st ununciated in 1964, 3 years before the miraculous 6-Day War. With Jews like them and like Soros, the "2-State Solution" would quickly become, G-d forbid, a "2-State Final Solution 2."

  • warrenrush

    Greetings to UC Irvine

    Wake Up and Smell the Coffee before your Goose is Cooked

    No apologies

  • BS77

    These libs would vote for a rotten log if it ran as a Democrat.

    • Sue

      I've always said that if Christ ran as a Republican and Satan as a Democrat, liberals would vote for Satan!

  • John J.

    Maybe they assume that Obama would help protect the Jews just as Roosevelt did. Unfortunately, Roosevelt did not protect or save the Jews until it was too late for most. In fact, he did the exact opposite during most of the war, where his hand-selected agents delayed and obfuscated all assistance to them, even pretending they were not aware of how many were in concentration camps. He chose to not bomb railways or camps for ridiculous reasons. Basically, he waited until the last minute to stop the slaughter. The New-deal handout king was the Jew's worst nightmare. Obama has already shown he would be no better at defending or protecting Jewish interests.

    • Michael Garfinkel

      Roosevelt did authorize the War Refugee Board in January 1944, albeit under substantial political pressure.

      Still, this anology is poor: Roosevelt was largely indifferent, while Obama is clearly hostile to Jewish interests.

      As for the Hillel players in Irvine, they're simply engaged in the early submssion of resumes. There will, after all, be a demand for Kapos in the coming Islamic Socialist Reich.

    • nomoreobama

      Obama has shown he is no friend of the Jews! His days in office are numbered!

  • Leah

    Jews blaming Jews. This is article is an embarrassment to our community and was clearly written by someone who has no idea what is really going on in the Irvine Jewish Community. I encourage everyone who reads this to go out and find the real facts for themselves. It's time to join together for our common good and stop trying to pass blame.

    • Sashland

      or just BS?

      Deserved criticism is, well, deserved.

      Is there something factually incorrect with the article?

    • alan g

      Leah, I challenge you to give evidence to contradict the claim. It seems that they either supported those groups or not. If they supported them, then where is the argument.

      • Leah

        That is a great point, Alan. What qualifies as support? i read nothing about support other than some UCI Hillel students who joined OTI…specifically their student president. Does that mean the entire OC Hillel supports the initiative? I do not think that Hillel has the power to ban their students from other organizations, but i could be mistaken as i do not know all the rules of Hillel. It seems to me that the actions of a single participant have some how convicted an entire organization of…well, i'm not even sure what. I fail to see the "support" that OC Hillel is being convicted of…as a matter of fact, this article does not demonstrate any support of OTI by OC Hillel as an organization. It seems unfair and radical to punish the other OC Hillel students who were not involved with OTI just because of the actions of another student.

    • http://jewtudes.com deborah lurya

      Yes Leah- we need to come together-
      ahavat Israel. There are a lot of big egos at play here.

      • ziontruth

        For "ahavat Israel" (love of all Jews of one another, as one body) to be effective and not just an empty phrase, Jews everywhere need to be united against those who hate them. Jews need to realize that Hussein Obama is no friend of the Jewish nation, that Leftism is deleterious to the Jewish survival and that the Muslims are vying today for successorship of Hitler's work (God forbid).

  • Laura

    With Jews like those who run Hillel, we don't need enemies.

    • doreen

      Amen brudda!

  • Fred Dawes


  • WilliamJamesWard

    Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare it was another man who lived in
    the same town at the same time and coincidentally in the same house
    with the same name who wrote Shakespeare. Insanity, pure insanity it
    does exist and is alive and well at OC Hillel, why does the word perversion
    keep banging in my head when I read this account, disconcerting at
    a minimum, betrayal for sure……………………………………………………..William

  • http://jewtudes.com deborah lurya

    It is a problem for sure, but it was handled all wrong. Sterling should have used a little candor and discretion instead of attacking the Jewish Federation leaders. And on the other hand, the leadership should have held a meeting with the concerned community memebers, Rabbis, orgs etc. Our community should not be splintering at a time when Israel is surrounded by her enemies, and she needs American Jewish support. Lets quit beating this horse to death, and move into the world at large. Also how about teaching our children about our successes in history- we need Jewish pride. Tearing each other apart is a sin- it brought down the second Temple. Egos needs to be put to rest, s o that we can work in unison. Ahavat Israel.

  • jzsnake

    Y'all need to come on down to Georgia Tech where the Hillel is having an Israel Fest this Thursday. Hell no we ain't forgetting!

  • ThePittsburghSteeler

    This is a necessary (and excellent journalism, by the way) article; perhaps it will
    wake up a few Jews on the far Left. If the national Hillel leadership had any sense,
    they would shut down the UC Irvine chapter–for good. Unfortunately,, there are many
    Jews in ISRAEL that think and act like Jordan Fruchtman and his gang. (Where common
    sense people are often ridiculed for suggesting that Israel find a way to shoot down the rockets coming from Gaza) But don't you UNDERSTAND?! Franklin Roosevelt was a CHARISMATIC man!, exclaim many American Jews. This is all that matters to them.

  • RfaelMoshe

    This an active and on going problem. Well, albeit, mysteriously funded "Pro Palestinian groups openly encourage their members to lie their way into Jewish organizations on campus. The goal is to subvert tomorrow's leaders. Some of the "Palestinian students" seem to be older, take only one class, and spend their time agitating. Are they being sent here for that purpose?

  • http://www.rabbidov.com Rabbi Dov Fischer

    I am an Irvine shul rabbi. For more on the insanity of Olive Tree, Hillel's direct role in founding it, Federation's and Elcott's direct role in helping launch it and finance it, see:
    http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2011/02/28http://www.rabbidov.com/olive_tree_initiative.htm http://www.rabbidov.com/olive_tree_initiative_200http://www.rabbidov.com/rest_of_olive_tree_initia

    This indeed is the reason that Chabad started a branch at UCI — to offset the poison at Hillel. And it is the reason that more and more synagogues, as well as Yeshiva University, are starting and funding Jewish groups at campuses for students to bypass the poison at Hillel. Can you imagine — recruiting Jewish kids to go to "Palestine" where they will spend part opf Rosh Hashanah meeting with terrorist apol;ogists who seek to destroy Israel? And being supported with Jewish federation funding? Can you even imagine?

    • Guest

      Only one error in what you say.

    • sam

      You only wish you were a Rabbi.

  • Avi S

    To see an upclose and personal example of what this article warns us about please join the group jihadijew on facebook.

  • DefiantJewess

    this is still going on- the Hillel pandering or succumbing to the Student for Justice movement and MSU. This is the fault of the Jewish Federation who have supported the left all along, and gone along with the myths spun by the left, their NGOS, and the so called peace organizations. And of course the vitriol that is manifested and broadcast on campuses nationwide. Here in California the Federation and its umbrella orbs work with and support the UC system in California lock stock and barrel, so when there are the famous apartheid weeks, the Federation does nothing to discourage it. Why this is is not really something anyone can know for sure. Perhaps there are financial gifts? Status? More power? After all, there is big bucks in promoting anti-Semitism. Accusations that the Jewish state is guilty of committing Apartheid is the new way of saying we are dirty Jews. We are Perfidious and evil Jews and we don’t deserve to live. Even the Pope is making a case, hard peddling the Palestinian state.